The task force, a partnership of 27 law enforcement agencies, is sharing data and retraining investigators in an effort to halt the thefts, which have skyrocketed with the price of scrap metal in a lagging economy.
Member agencies are sending their data to the Kennesaw Police Department, where the information is consolidated to find criminal patterns, problem areas and piece together suspect information. That intelligence is then disseminated to members of the strike force, as well as the Southeast Metal Task Force, an Atlanta-based group of police departments and metal companies.
"The size of metal thefts throughout the state and metro region is much larger than we originally anticipated when we began the Copperhead Strike Force," said Marietta Police Maj. Marty Ferrell, commander of the Copperhead Strike Force.
"The more we look into it, the more we see this is a massive problem in the state."
Police across the state have seen thieves target air-conditioning units, construction materials, manhole covers and even gravestone memorial plaques for copper, bronze and other valuable metals.
Since Jan. 1, Cobb Police have investigated about 260 reported metal-related thefts in unincorporated Cobb alone, officers said.
On Aug. 8, Smyrna police arrested three men accused of stealing six bundles of copper pipes and 30 air conditioning coils, worth a combined $500, from the city-owned Hickory Lakes Apartments on Windy Hill Road at Old Concord Road.
Percy David Judd, 39, of Smyrna, and Jerry Junior Zellner, 37, of Lithonia, were both charged with felony theft by taking and criminal trespassing in that case. Derrick Bernard White, 48, of Atlanta, was charged with felony theft by taking in that case.
Judd and White were each released from Cobb County jail on $10,000 bonds, while Zellner remains behind bars without bail, according to jail records.
In an earlier case, Marietta Police investigated the July 22 theft of 350 aluminum tent poles - weighing 1,100 pounds and valued at $4,000 - from Olympian Rental on Roswell Road at Lower Roswell Road. The poles were in the bed of a box van that was padlocked and parked at the business, and were sold as scrap to Taylor's Junkyard in Bartow County, according to warrants.
Marietta police arrested three men - Jason Scott Hill, 35, of Kennesaw; Ronald James Jordan, 37, of Acworth; and Jason Tyler Smith, 20, of Acworth - on charges of felony theft in that case.
A fourth suspect, Matthew Houston Cobb, 22, of Acworth, is being held in Cherokee County in connection to the case, according to police.
Police said Hill previously worked at Olympian Rental. Hill was arrested in Atlanta, police said. Smith remains in Cobb County jail. Jordan was freed on a $10,000 bond.
"The collaborative efforts of local law enforcement are going to increase awareness for the public regarding this crime, lead to the arrest and conviction of more who are engaged in this crime, and help to uncover other criminal enterprises in which they are engaged," said Acworth Chief Michael Wilkie, strike force spokesman.